The 2011 General Assembly (GA) of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) closed Sunday night, June 26, in Charlotte, NC. More than 4,000 people attended the annual meeting to tend to UUA business, gather in worship, celebrate the UUA’s 50th anniversary, and bear public witness for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) equality in North Carolina.
Highlights of the meeting include:
- The adoption of a faith-based institutional commitment to ethical eating.
- Planning for General Assembly 2012 in Phoenix, AZ, as a special “Justice GA.”
- An interfaith rally against homophobia and transphobia attended by hundreds of Unitarian Universalists (UUs) and other LGBT supporters, covered extensively by the media.
- Special collections for Mecklenburg Ministries and the UUA's Arizona Immigration Ministry.
- Celebrations and workshops in honor of the UUA’s 50th anniversary.
- The strengthening of interfaith alliances by welcoming speakers and guests including religious scholar and author Karen Armstrong, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf of the Cordoba House, and Rev. Kosho Niwano of Rissho Kosei-kai.
Delegates at GA 2011 approved a Statement of Conscience on Ethical Eating, encouraging Unitarian Universalists (UUs) to “eat ethically” by becoming aware of the ways that food choices affect personal health as well as the planet’s health. The statement had been in the works for three years, and passed overwhelmingly.
Also discussed was the “Justice General Assembly” planned for Phoenix in 2012. A resolution passed last year calls upon the UUA to work with UU leaders in Arizona to transform the annual meeting into a special justice-centered event, sparked by Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, SB1070. While Phoenix had been chosen as the location for GA 2012 long before SB1070, delegates decided a justice gathering would be a more effective response than boycotting the state.
On Friday, June 24, hundreds of marchers joined the Standing on the Side of Love campaign in uptown Charlotte for a powerful rally speaking out against homophobia and transphobia, with co-sponsors Time Out Youth, the Human Rights Campaign, Faith in America, and Equality North Carolina. Attendees braved pouring rain to stand on the side of love with their LGBT friends, neighbors, and family, and were featured on multiple television stations and the front page of the Charlotte Observer.
During the GA Sunday morning worship, an offering was collected to benefit the Mecklenburg Ministries, a Charlotte-based non-profit that “promotes interfaith relationships, fosters racial and ethnic understanding, and inspires collaboration to address social issues.” The offering brought in more than $31,000 for the organization. Unitarian Universalists collected more than $31,000 for the newly created Arizona Immigration Ministry as well, in preparation for the 2012 Justice General Assembly.
Attendees celebrated the 50th anniversary of the formation of the UUA, created in 1961 as a result of the consolidation of the Universalist Church of America and the American Unitarian Association. The 2011 General Assembly opening ceremony included appearances by four past and present UUA presidents: the Rev. Dr. William F. Schulz; the Rev. John A. Buehrens; the Rev. William G. Sinkford; and current president, the Rev. Peter Morales, and concluded with “birthday” cake for the thousands in attendance.
In keeping with Rev. Morales’ emphasis on multicultural growth within Unitarian Universalism, speakers during the week included 2011 Ware Lecturer Karen Armstrong, one of the world's leading commentators on religious affairs and a best-selling author whose books have been translated into 45 languages. Armstrong’s lecture addressed "The Challenge of Compassion."
Also featured was Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, founder of Cordoba Initiative, an independent, multi-faith, and multi-national project that works to improve Muslim-West relations and the visionary behind the Cordoba House Community Center near ground zero that received worldwide attention in 2010. Imam Rauf spoke on “A Spark of Freedom in the Muslim World.”
Another highlight was the presence of the Rev. Kosho Niwano, President-Designate of the six-million member Rissho Kosei-kai religious group in Japan. Rev. Niwano traveled to the General Assembly to help the UUA celebrate its 50th anniversary and to thank the UUA for its contribution of $120,000 for relief work after the devastating tsunami that struck Japan earlier this year.
Detailed coverage of the business agenda, justice work, and worship at GA can be found on UU World’s General Assembly Blog.
The Unitarian Universalist Association is a faith community of more than 1,000 self-governing congregations that bring to the world a vision of religious freedom, tolerance and social justice. For more information on the UUA, including recent press releases and news articles, please visit our online press room.
Public Relations Director Unitarian Universalist Association Boston, MA 02108
dkincaid @ uua.org